Vision Therapy to Address Learning Disabilities? One L.A. School Official Says ‘Scam’

by David Kolin

In what one school official called a “scam,” Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) continues to spend $100,000 on contract optometrists to treat learning-disabled children with eye exercises in the hope of improving their literacy skills, despite research that has found such interventions to be ineffective.

Vision therapy is paid for out of LAUSD’s special education division, but not through the Visually Impaired Program. LAUSD officials determine eligibility for vision therapy through the Individualized Education Program (IEP) and vision therapy assessments. If a student meets both criteria, they are provided with vision therapy to remedy their learning difficulties.

Ophthalmologists question the effectiveness of the program. “There is absolutely no evidence it’s helpful at all,” said Sheryl Handler, co-author of a 2011 joint technical report on vision therapy and reading disabilities that found vision therapy to be an ineffective treatment for learning disabilities.

A handful of other published papers, including an assessment by the American Academy of Ophthalmology, claim there is no valid proof that vision therapy benefits learning-disabled students.

According to James Astle, LAUSD assistive technology assessor, the district spends about $100,000 each year to continue the program. Since the district passed a $6.2 billion budget in June, it is easy for an unsubstantiated program like vision therapy to be overlooked.

After years of processing vision therapy requests for LAUSD, Astle believes the program is a “scam,” created for monetary gains using a program that he believes doesn’t hurt, but doesn’t help either.

“It’s very difficult to prove that it doesn’t do anything,” Astle said in an interview. “There are commercial and financial motivations behind it.”

Astle said he believes optometrists pursue vision therapy because it is cheap and simple to deliver.

“Seriously, it costs them nothing,” Astle said. “There are certain benefits to it. I just don’t think they’re the benefits that parents are expecting or that the optometrists are claiming, that it will help with reading and learning disabilities.”

John Tassinari, associate professor at the Optometric Center of Los Angeles, said optometrists are not trying to treat reading disorders directly through vision therapy. They are trying to help children by removing any underlying vision problems that could be contributing to reading difficulties.

“We treat disorders of how the eyes move, track, coordinate, focus,” Tassinari said. “Then we treat higher level visual processing skills like visual memory, visualization, spacial relations.”

Optometrist Gary Etting likens the importance of vision therapy for disabled youth to driver’s education.

“Just like when you learn to drive a car and you were thinking about every aspect – keeping your hands on the wheel, not talking to anybody and looking at all the mirrors – to the point you’re at now where everything is automatic,” Etting said. “We have to make the visual abilities at the same level, so the child does not have to consciously have to think about what they’re doing with their eyes but rather has the ability to process it.”

Handler contends that vision problems are caused by the reading disabilities, not vice versa.

“Problems with reading fluency are not based on problems with ‘eye tracking,’” Handler wrote in an e-mail to The Chronicle of Social Change. “Children with dyslexia often lose their place while reading and skip words and lines because they struggle to decode a letter or word combination, lack comprehension, or have difficulties with memory or attention. The ‘reading tracking abnormality’ is the result, not the cause of the reading problem.”

Although studies supporting vision therapy have been published, Handler and others argue that they are not scientifically valid because sample sizes were too small or the studies were not appropriately controlled. Research on visionhelp.com, a website run by a group of optometrists, including Etting, uses as few as six patients to support their conclusions.

“With a larger controlled study, you don’t necessarily get the same results,” Handler said. “When you cut the data into tiny findings, you skew the data. That’s a false way of doing things.”

Instead, Handler believes that the reading problems stem from inadequacies in our education system.

“Teachers in teacher training are not being taught in reading and reading instruction,” Handler said. “It has not been properly incorporated in teacher colleges, so they cannot teach children right…so they look for other reasons kids have problems [learning to read].”

Handler contends that the discrepancy in reading ability occurs because some students learn how to read prior to their first years of schooling. However, other students have not had the same preparation, already creating a rift between various levels of reading.

Astle also argues that some of the evaluations done by optometrists are outside their area of expertise and should be performed by other specialists instead.

“They’re giving perceptual [tests] that really should be done by a school psychologist,” Astle said. “These optometrists check functional vision. That’s another controversy. Why would you give educational, psychological development tests? Why would they be done by optometrists?”

David Kolin is a freelance reporter

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31 Comments

  1. Forget about whether or not vision problems cause learning problems. These vision problems create stress that would constitute a barrier to automatic achievement (but do not necessarily cause learning disabilities). If any student suffers under the lack of diagnosis, correction or developmental therapy, regardless of achievement level, that student should have access to corrective procedures. Waiting until a student is a teenager to discover dis-coordination and amblyopia (lazy eye–intermittent double vision) is insulting to our regard for early identification and correction. A person can go through life with one-eyed vision, unable to perceive in 3-D, making many mistakes in reading music, being uncoordinated and embarrassed in sports requiring accuracy in throwing and other deficits in visual coordination; these difficulties take an unnecessary and life-long toll on self-concept . If a student had poor teeth, the parents would be informed; if the student had a broken arm action would be taken. But educators are blind to vision because no training or orientation to the relevance to classroom performance caused by these difficulties is given in teacher preparation programs any more (The book on school vision screening by the great reading professor Emmett Betts was published in 1936, so vision has been dropped out of teacher training. The unspoken logic manifest in purposeful denial of these services is the proposition that, if a child has a learning problem, that child cannot possibly (is not permitted to) have a vision problem! What an amazing attitude by people who are highly educated but totally blind due to faulty logic. Heaven help us. Developmental O.D.s have tools and procedures that can be life changing for students with problems. Even eye surgeons understand the need for orthoptics for some people. In Knoxville, Tennessee, the Lions Club has “volunteer” mobile units that go to the kindergarteners in each of the 40+ elementary schools to administer comprehensive visual skills assessments to find the 20% or more students with school vision criteria problems at near point, far point or both. Most learning takes place at near point, not at the 20-foot far point Snellen Test that was developed to screen army recruits in WWI. Programming at the school/classroom level can be effective for many of these school readiness vision problems. Identify and treat/train as early as possible while the brain plasticity is so available. A student need not have to have a learning problem to benefit. Eyeglasses are often helpful, but many other issues may be present yet unaddressed without comprehensive visual (not eye) screening. Efficient vision reduces stress even for students with learning problems, so do not deny such students the benefits of complete and mature vision that is more than acuity and eyeglasses.
    The special education comprehensive evaluation is supposed to include a thorough vision examination. Each person signing off on the IEP attests to the visual status of the student. In my many years of observing IEP meetings I have always seen people signing off without any evidence whatsoever that a complete visual skills exam was ever administered. Vision is always assumed to be normal unless otherwise specified. The special educators need to recognize the difference between efficient vision and vision problems. Vision is a part of the IEP.

  2. My son had all the symptoms of Dyslexia and Developmental coordination disorder that were caused 100% by his eyes inability to focus or track as a team. He had no 3D, no depth perception, double vision and no tracking. 35 weeks of intense neuro-visual therapy later and he is now un-diagnosed because all his Dyslexia and DCD symptoms have disappeared. People who say VT is a scam are simply completely ignorant. VT is as much of a scam as Physical Therapy or Speech Therapy. My son has completed and mastered 150 physical VT activities to strengthen his vision and there is not one person who could look at the activities and easily see how they retrain the eyes to work together and focus together. The greatest hidden epidemic of all time that should launch the biggest claas action lawsuit in the world is the fact that Ophthalmologists, Pediatricians and Psychologists are refusing to acknowledge that they screwed up, did not follow their own diagnositic manual and rule out vision deficiencies and mis-diagnosed and even drugged kids for disorders they DON’T HAVE!

  3. David…

    I don’t know why you choose to be in the hip pocket of ophthalmology…but obviously you have swallowed their unsubstantiated reasons for stating vision therapy does not work…when obviously it works quite well. A REAL journalist would seek out the true story and not become a mouthpiece for the MDs. You need to rethink your journalistic ethics…..

    As a Professor of Pediatrics and Binocular Vision I would be happy to educate you concerning the science pertaining to optometric vision therapy….

    But First read the paper below:

    American Academy of Optometry Binocular Vision, Perception, and Pediatric Optometry
    Position Paper on Optometric Care of the Struggling Student For parents, educators, and other professionals
    August 2013

    http://www.aaopt.org/Media/Default/Newsletters/Revised%20Oct%2018_BVPPO_Position_paper%20AAO%20website%20formatFINAL.pdf

  4. The American Academy of Ophthalmology and the Pediatric Ophthalmologist group wrote a policy paper that looked at all the research regarding learning disabilities and vision therapy. They came to the conclusion that vision therapy was NOT proven effective for children with learning disabilities. The policy paper by the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus organizations which together include most ophthalmologists (MDs) in the United States, explains why vision therapy is not advised for learning disabilities. Their explanation is written in a 50 page paper coauthored by Sheryl Handler MD. The article examines all the research that had been done at the time of publication and comes to the conclusion that “there is no valid evidence that children who participate in vision therapy are more responsive to educational instruction than children who do not participate”. (link to paper http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/127/3/e818)

    I understand that the optometrists who commented on my article are unhappy with the conclusion that was reached in the policy paper, however it appears to be the most objective data to date on the subject.

    • Why, David Kolin, is it the most objective data to date on the subject? Please explain why none of the data mentioned below is objective, and why the data reported in the ophthalmology report is valid?

      And exactly who are you? I searched for your name online, and could find nothing regarding your credentials or who you are. Freelancers tend to be paid by either the publication, or they can be hired by a PR firm or a company to write articles. So what’s your story?

      Full disclosure: I work for The Vision Therapy Center. I’m a writer and a marketer. Why do I work for them? Because they performed vision therapy on my daughter and turned her from a frustrated kid who absolutely hated to read to one of the top readers in the state of Wisconsin, based on her test scores.

      I work for them because I enjoy helping kids overcome their reading problems and lead normal lives. It makes me happy when I lay my head on the pillow at night, knowing I’ve done some good in this world.

      I also work for them vision therapy needs all the help it can get to refute this kind of “journalism.”

      So that’s my story. I’d love to hear yours.

      And I close with the question I started with: Have you read all the links below? Do you understand the research they’re talking about? I highly doubt it. If you do, please explain to everyone who is commenting here why the Handler paper is more objective.

    • With all due respect to Mr Kolin as the freelance writer of this article, and most importantly for the public who may read his rebuttal, the suggestion made that the AAOP policy paper that concluded there is no connection between vision problems and learning problems, as the “most objective” source of data, is simply disingenuous. The AAOP is not the authoritative source for such information as the organizational makeup as a whole has no interest in helping children with vision related learning problems. They offer no doctoral training or continuing education for children with such problems. On the other hand, the organization that is the authoritative source for vision and its impact on learning and is recognized as the backbone for Board Certification of Doctors in the field of Developmental Vision and Vision Therapy, The College of Optometrists in Vision Development (COVD), was not even mentioned in Mr. Kolin’s article. That omission surely indicates a lack of objectivity. COVD’s message is clear, “vision has everything to do with learning”. http://news.cision.com/college-of-optometrists-in-vision-development/r/vision-problems-mistaken-for-learning-disabilities–college-of-optometrists-in-vision-development-ob,c9475370
      Dan L. Fortenbacher, O.D., FCOVD

  5. I am an optometrist from Singapore and I mainly offer vision therapy to children who has binocular vision problems, strabismus and amblyopia.

    Very often, these children also have learning difficulties, and school teachers and parents report positive academic results after their child pursues vision therapy. I think that this alone is a testament of the success in each and every individual child, and I am most delighted that they have made such tremendous progress at school.

    There is good research evidence for vision therapy and there are always arguments in the research community who are for or against anything. What is important is NOT to confuse patients and the general public with negative comments that may deny children from getting the treatment they need.

    I have written a review article on the topic ‘Dyslexia and Vision: Current evidence and clinical interventions’ on page 10-15 on the Medical Grapevine Asia magazine. It is written in the context of Asia and Singapore, but I hope that you will find it useful for youself and anyone else you know who may benefit from vision therapy.

    Download it from:
    http://www.medicalgrapevineasia.com/emag/092013/download.php

    Regards
    Tiong Peng Yap
    Optometrist
    IGARD Group Singapore
    http://www.igard.com.sg

  6. “Although studies supporting vision therapy have been published, Handler and others argue that they are not scientifically valid because sample sizes were too small or the studies were not appropriately controlled.”
    Sheryl Handler needs to be more consistent in her approach. In the paper that she co-authored in Pediatrics published online in Feb 2011 “Joint Technical Report-Learning Disabilities and Vision” the following paper is referenced
    137. Hodgetts DJ, Simon JW, Sibila TA, Scanlon
    DM, Vellutino FR. Normal reading despite
    limited eye movements. J AAPOS. 1998;
    2(3):182–183
    in order to make the following point
    “Dyslexia is no more frequent in
    these children with significant eye movement disorders than in the general population.137”
    That paper was based on a study of TWO children
    From the abstract:
    “We report the ophthalmologic and reading assessments of two children with Möbius’ syndrome who were average to above-average readers despite essentially absent horizontal eye movements.”
    A clearer example of double standards would be hard to find.

  7. Speaking of scams, one can also argue that Astle and Handler are complicit in a little scam as well. . .one that has for years been perpetrated upon the public by organized ophthalmology against optometry. For what reason? Perhaps for the same reason as Astle asserts, ““There are commercial and financial motivations behind it.”

    I have always found it curious that for all of the years of talk behind the “no evidence” rhetoric regarding the effectiveness of vision therapy issued by organized ophthalmology, that no-one in their camp has taken it upon themselves to come up with a scientific study to determine why it is that the visual system, unlike the motor system, speech-language system, or auditory system, or somatosensory system, lacks any neuroplasticity and therefore has no effect whatsoever upon learning. What is it about the visual brain that makes it so special, so unique from the rest of the brain? What makes the visual brain the sole modality which is immune to and resistant to therapeutic change? If the science is so easy, as Handler seems to imply, why doesn’t organized ophthalmology simply come up with its own “controlled study” and crush all this vision therapy stuff once and for all? Could it be that this “no evidence” mantra is simply organized ophthalmology’s unscientific confirmation bias run amok?

    It was not that long ago that this same type of absolutist thinking existed regarding the treatment of amblyopia beyond the age of 10, which much of optometry believed to be effective, but was thought by organized ophthalmology to be ineffective. But organized ophthalmology’s long-held “orthodoxy” has been completely debunked. . .and not so much by organized ophthalmology, but by vision scientists outside of organized ophthalmology.

    In my opinon, Handler’s “Let’s blame the teachers” for reading problems just doesn’t cut it anymore. I’m sorry. But if you are still being told that vision has nothing to do with learning, maybe it’s time to find a new eye doctor!

  8. This article exhibits Handler’s ignorance of evidence based medicine(EBM). Perception tests are not well evaluated by objective methods and become subject under qualitative forms of study which are written as viable forms of EBM. Qualitative studies then become superior than the quantitative methods which would be the random controlled studies Handler seems to be hinting at.

    Why do optometrists do perception tests? Because doctorates of optometry are clinicians trained to care for ocular health and the health of visual processes. We see with our brains, not our eyes. Optometrists are formally trained in vision perception and visual processing in addition to the anatomical & physiological processes of the eyes. Vision Perception does not necessarily equate to psychological interpretation. Optometrist have been doing vision perception testing for about 80 years. Maybe pschology needs to get out of vision business instead provided Handler’s logic is actually sound. I think they could do great cooperating together.

    Does Handler yield support to Psychiatry? Psychiatry is heavily based on subjective measurements: even in the supposedly controlled studies. If one was to hold the same standard to Psychiatry as Handler is to Optometristy, then it should be called a scam as well given lack of biochemical evidence to support hypothesized causes of psychiatric disorders and treatments all the while success rate after treatment period ENDS (no longer need for drugs) is very low for psychiatry. Vision therapy has a fairly good rate of success and satisfied patients after therapy is ends. This comparison is not really EBM alone, but it does stand for something. I don’t know about all states, but a great deal of public funds are spent in Psychiatry. The logic would then be the same as a drug addict advising the alcoholic to cease drinking for medical reasons.

    And we wonder why are school systems are broken.

  9. It is undeniable today that the majority of patients who sustain a mild traumatic brain injury will also develop a visual dysfunction. In one retrospective study of 160 individuals, it was found that:

    56.3% developed an eye teaming problem
    51.3% developed an eye tracking problem
    41.1% developed an eye focusing problem

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1475-1313.2011.00831.x/full

    What may also surprise you is that reading difficulties is one of the most common reported symptoms following a mild traumatic brain injury, some studies showing as high as 50%!

    http://journals.lww.com/optvissci/Fulltext/2013/02000/Mechanisms_of_TBI_and_Visual_Consequences_in.3.aspx

    But we’re more enlightened than this. Right? We absolutely know that reading difficulties could have nothing to do with eye movements. In fact, we should discourage patients from even attempting to rehabilitate their eye movement control.

    Sarcasm aside, why do I talk about brain injury patients in an article on struggling students? I do it to exaggerate a point. Nobody would deny the relationship between poor eye movement control and reading in a brain injury patient. Yet we are supposed to believe that this relationship does not and cannot exist in struggling, developing readers.

    I beg to differ. The proof comes in the thousands of children I’ve seen whose lives were turned around through vision therapy. Just today, I had a mother who nearly wept in my office as she shared with me the joy in seeing her son “pick up a book for the first.” He had never done this before.

    So, I leave you with this. I do not mind opinion pieces that are based on objective data and research, both of which this article has none. But what I do mind is the categorical denial of any relationship between eye movement control and reading skills. What I do mind is the forceful attempt to convince parents that there is no way to improve these skills. And mostly what I mind is how propaganda like this will prevent children in the future from getting the help they need.

  10. Everyone opposing VT to remediate vision and learning disabilities should look at their motives. As being a person with untreated binocular vision issues I take personal offence in this article. Misinformation like this is ruining lives. How many Nobel prize winners, David Hubel for one, have to endorse Visual Training before ophthalmologists get it?

  11. The research is plentiful and yes in the medical journals and text books.
    Here are some articles that tell the real story and are all supported with well done research published in peer reviewed medical, optometric and neuroscience journals.
    http://visionhelp.wordpress.com/2012/11/07/osu-researchers-find-conclusive-link-between-vision-problems-and-children-with-ieps/
    http://visionhelp.wordpress.com/2011/04/13/accommodations-3-as-the-triple-play-for-reading-and-learning/
    http://visionhelp.wordpress.com/2010/11/27/visual-tracking-and-academic-performance-part-1/
    http://visionhelp.wordpress.com/2011/01/07/vision-academic-problems-and-the-emotional-fallout/
    http://visionhelp.wordpress.com/2012/09/28/good-sight-and-bad-vision-recognizing-the-difference-and-how-to-explain-it-to-parents/
    The fact that this author did not even attempt to discuss these truths is reason to discount this article as false and irresponsible.
    And finally, the author makes an attempt to trivialize the comments by Dr. Gary Etting by stating, “Research on visionhelp.com, a website run by a group of optometrists, including Etting, uses as few as six patients to support their conclusions.” Well to those who are interested in knowing more about the VisionHelp Group and what we are truly about, click on this link, read more and see the video: http://visionhelp.wordpress.com/authors/

  12. In her 2009 report on vision therapy, Sheryl Handler recommended that if you have trouble coordinating your eyes when reading at near distances, you should wear glasses that make nearsighted people see better far away. This “expert” opinion should make everyone question the believability of the entire scam article.

  13. This article is troubling because it is either an example, at best of terrible misguided journalism, or at worst an intentional act to distort the truth with an underlying purpose to influence state funding of programs in California.

    The sad thing is that it continues to perpetuate distortion and myths about serious visual problems that affect millions of children in the US alone. To name a few, these visual problems are dysfunctions in binocular vision (eye teaming), accommodation (eye focusing) and oculomotor (visual tracking) ability as well as visual information processing and visual motor integration- all of which, if delayed in their development, will lead to a child with a reduced ability to perform in visually based learning activities in the classroom, such as reading!

    The research is plentiful and yes in the medical journals and text books.

    Here are some articles that tell the real story and are all supported with well done research published in peer reviewed medical, optometric and neuroscience journals.

    http://visionhelp.wordpress.com/2012/11/07/osu-researchers-find-conclusive-link-between-vision-problems-and-children-with-ieps/

    http://visionhelp.wordpress.com/2011/04/13/accommodations-3-as-the-triple-play-for-reading-and-learning/

    http://visionhelp.wordpress.com/2010/11/27/visual-tracking-and-academic-performance-part-1/

    http://visionhelp.wordpress.com/2011/01/07/vision-academic-problems-and-the-emotional-fallout/

    http://visionhelp.wordpress.com/2012/09/28/good-sight-and-bad-vision-recognizing-the-difference-and-how-to-explain-it-to-parents/

    The fact that this author did not even attempt to discuss these truths is reason to discount this article as false and irresponsible.

    And finally, the author makes an attempt to trivialize the comments by Dr. Gary Etting by stating, “Research on visionhelp.com, a website run by a group of optometrists, including Etting, uses as few as six patients to support their conclusions.” Well to those who are interested in knowing more about the VisionHelp Group and what we are truly about, click on this link, read more and see the video: http://visionhelp.wordpress.com/authors/

  14. I have been angry all day about this article. My mother told me about it this morning and, while at school today, I thought about what I wanted to say. So here it goes! This article is pathetic. It’s wrong. It’s harmful. It’s ridiculous. Vision therapy does work. It changed my life and the lives of thousands of people, children and adults, all around the world. That is the story you should be telling. If you need information, you can start with the book about me, “Jillian’s Story: How Vision Therapy Changed My Life.” Once you’ve read about me, please take the time to read “Dear Jillian: Vision Therapy Changed My Life Too.” You want to write about a scam? Write about the school administrator who is getting paid to pretend he knows what he is talking about while obviously not caring about the kids in his school district.

  15. There are indeed carefully controlled scientific studies demonstrating the effectiveness of optometric vision therapy. For example, convergence insufficiency is a common binocular vision disorder that affects reading ability. A National Eye Institute-sponsored study of 221 children demonstrated that a combination of office and home-based vision therapy was the most effective treatment for this condition. (See Archives of Ophthalmology, 2008, volume 126, pages 1336-49; also http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/11/health/11visi.html?_r=0) A further study confirmed that academic behaviors, such as willingness to read and complete homework, were improved following successful treatment of convergence insufficiency. (See Optometry and Vision Science, 2012, volume 89, pages 12-18.) Other binocular vision disorders, such as strabismus (crossed eyes or wall eyes) and amblyopia (lazy eye) also affect reading ability. (See Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science, 2013, volume 54, pages 620-28; http://www.journalofvision.org/content/7/2/21.long) Combined, these vision disorders impact more than ten percent of the population. Finally, these vision disorders can be diagnosed and treated by optometrists, but not by psychologists.
    Susan R. Barry, PhD
    Professor of Biology and Neuroscience
    Mount Holyoke College
    Author of Fixing My Gaze: A Scientist’s Journey Into Seeing In Three Dimensions.

  16. Such a sad and destructive little article.

    What a shame that you might actually dissuade some worried parent out there from getting the help they need for their struggling child.

    My daughter’s life was absolutely changed by vision therapy. She was bright and always done well in school. But she couldn’t/wouldn’t read.

    She began to hate school and would disappear at the back of the class, head down. Homework was a miserable – whining, crying, cajoling and arguing each night. She complained of headaches and fatigue.

    We visited her ophthalmologist and he prescribed patching. It was hard for her, both physically and socially, but she did it. We powered through.

    At the end of the process her ophthalmologist declared her vision 20/20 and told me his work was done. When I pointed out that she was having headaches, was miserable in school and couldn’t read he told me to “go back to her school and tell them it was an education problem.”

    My mother’s intuition told me otherwise.

    A friend recommended we get an evaluation by an optometrist trained in vision development, and it was there we discovered she had serious vision problems.

    20/20 vision wasn’t enough! Vision Therapy was a miracle was the miracle our family was waiting for. She’s now a straight A student and loves school!

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/74321220306/

  17. At one time in history, all of the greatest scholars in the world “knew” the world was flat. That obviously proved to be wrong.

    It does not matter what your research, or lack thereof, shows. Ask any parent who has sent their child to Vision Therapy and they will tell you – it works. Our son struggled for years academically, because of his inability to read fluently. We tried everything, and had every test done. The results were all the same: “Your son is incredibly smart and there is nothing wrong with him.” Based on another parent’s recommendation, we tried Vision Therapy. He now reads above grade level and is successful in school. Vision Therapy was the only thing we changed.

    This is the most misguided article I have read in some time. Somewhere out there is a struggling child whose parents are looking for a solution. Your ridiculous article will make them questions whether they should give Vision Therapy a try. That poor child won’t get the help he needs. What a disappointment.

  18. So are all these people who have received positive results from vision therapy liars? Misguided? Bamboozled?

    You read the stories and listen to the results. In case after case, they often asked everyone in the know (including the “experts” quoted in the article), and time and time again they were told there was nothing that could be done.

    In each case, vision therapy was chosen as the last resort. And in each, it worked.

    These are only eight cases here – there are thousands from The Vision Therapy Center and across the country. Do they fit into a nice, tidy little double-blind study? No, because with all the variables involved, a double-blind study would be impossible.

    But were they helped? You be the judge.

    http://info.thevisiontherapycenter.com/discovering-vision-therapy/?Tag=Success+Stories

  19. When journalists or other professionals write “There’s no scientific proof,” it so often means that they FAILED TO DO ANY RESEARCH on the topic. When so many parents and children are struggling with learning-related vision problems,
    the last thing they need is more confusion.

    Here are just a few of the many solid RCT with excellent P values. This one involves 57 children: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21309805

    Here’s a study using fMRI results in conjunction with other measurements…the outcome was very positive for vision therapy: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21057347

    This solid RCT had 221 participants:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20543758

  20. If you would look at my blog I have documented my daughter’s ENTIRE 130+ hours of Vision Therapy. After homeschooling her for 2 years and she was STILL not able to read a simple sentence we started Vision Therapy. Her life has taken 180 degree turn. She can read at least 2 levels above where she was 6 months ago PLUS, she says “MY WORLD IS CLEAR NOW” Before you call a VERY HELPFUL THERAPY a “Scam” maybe you should research the other side of the story. How sad to bring negative press to something that has changed THOUSANDS of adult and children’s lives.

    Allli’s story: http://raisingcatandbug.blogspot.com/p/blog-page_1.html

  21. 20 years ago my daughter was underperforming on 3 rd grade standardized tests.
    She couldn’t read well. All “standard” testing revealed no actual visual abnormalities . Her confidence and self-esteem were suffering. Traditional school offering was to take her our of regular class and give her more of what she couldn’t do.
    My solution was to take her out of public institutionalized school system and home school her.
    I discovered that she had a visual processing issue. Unheard of at the time.
    An integrated approach of vision therapy, homeopathy, cranial therapy, chiropractic , yoga, conscious awareness techniques and associative learning yielded an ROI of a brilliantly self- motivated and directed 23 year old who graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business. She is now gainfully employed making an abundant living on commissions , self generated income . This is the result of coordinated , effective visualization!

  22. Clearly you need to look at San Diego and the research they have done. They proved that after 16 weeks of vision therapy students show remarkable progress with reading. Granted their program included 2 vision pull out sessions per week (vision therapist came to them). It is really bold to state such a statement and unfortunate to make such claims without doing research. As a vision therapist I can say that a majority of the students I see (who are covered through the schools) are on the autism spectrum. For students with basic convergence, accommodation, tracking, issues as they build their skills they improve with reading and academics. Today we had a student who went from a 4.2 grade level in reading in June to a 12.9 grade level today. The only thing that changed in this student’s life is that his vision skills improved. I encourage you to do more research.

  23. 100k seems a small amount to be getting a froth about compared to 6.2 billion, particularly when the comments are politically motivated. But that’s not really the point. “Eye tracking” is often a symptom rather than a problem. We can agree that sometimes the symptom is a reflection of the reading ability, but sometimes the eye tracking is a symptom of fair simple eye teaming problems that do dramatically interfere with reading in some children. It would be fair to judge that those already struggling will struggle further if they are also dealing with focussing and eye teaming problems that have been proven to respond to vision training.

  24. Re: “Astle also argues that some of the evaluations done by optometrists are outside their area of expertise and should be performed by other specialists instead.”

    “They’re giving perceptual [tests] that really should be done by a school psychologist,” Astle said. “These optometrists check functional vision. That’s another controversy. Why would you give educational, psychological development tests? Why would they be done by optometrists?”

    >> The only controversy here is that Astle is commenting without any knowledge of what a program of studies in developmental/behavioral optometry really looks like. And is he also insisting on vision assessment BEFORE psychological assessments that do show visual perceptual troubles. There is a great need for education here.

  25. If you consider the logic (or lack thereof) in this article, you quickly realize these opinion are nothing more than unenlightened opinions. Consider this:

    First – The CITT study is “valid proof” of Vision Therapy’s effectiveness based on 208 patients, not 6. http://optometry.osu.edu/research/CITT/

    Second – what qualifications does a “assistive technology assessor” have that make he/she an expert on a medical intervention such as Vision Therapy?

    Third – Ms. Handler states “The ‘reading tracking abnormality’ is the result, not the cause of the reading problem.” How many kids deliberately look over there, then over there, and then over there because they do not understand a word? When I didn’t understand a word, or struggled with decoding, I stared at it until I figured it out. But if I has trouble staring at it because my eye muscles were not working correctly, it would seem difficult to figure out what it was if my eyes were jumping all over the place.

    Next – Ophthalmologists monitor structure and function. Optometrists monitor functional vision. Big difference.

    Last – Anyone reading this article who might be inclined to believe vision is unimportant in reading/learning, consider this: How efficient of a reader would you be with your eyes closed? Sounds ridiculous, right. Well these folks are suggesting that your brain gets the information and somehow tells your eyes to start misbehaving. If this is true, having your eyes closed when reading shouldn’t matter, since your brain already somehow has the information. Eyes come first in the process, and if your eyes are not taking an appropriate and consistent picture, your brain will not receive an appropriate and consistent picture – which would make reading pretty hard.

  26. In the same article, the author says optometrists are not qualified to administer visual perceptual tests, but it is fine for ophthalmology to comment. There is a double standard here where the medical practitioners (ophthalmology) fully dismiss developmental vision without ever having practiced or researched the area. Not all vision problems are medical, and not all reading/learning disorders are mysteries: Many children struggle with learning and behavior concerns that are based in vision. Ophthalmology does little to address these concerns when the eyes appear to be ‘healthy’, but where functional concerns are present. How can we say a child has visual perceptual problems when we have not even looked at vision? This article does a disservice to all those children who benefit from what appears to be a worthwhile program – throwing the baby out with the bathwater. PS – The ‘studies’ mentioned have been squarely rebuked by developmental optometrists. Objective reporting would require that these rebuttals be noted as well.

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